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Friday, January 10, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: Civilized Societies Execute Some of Their Criminals

There is an old joke…about a shipwrecked sailor. Adrift for days, he is washed ashore on an uncharted island. He looks about apprehensively. Presently his gaze falls on a gallows, whereupon he is visibly relieved. "At last," he sighs, "I've reached civilization!" The point of the joke is that only a comparatively settled, and hence civilized, society has the need for a permanent gallows and possesses the means, including skilled labor, to construct one. There is truth in that observation, though the earliest form of death penalty involved stoning, which did not require a gallows or any other man-made instrument of execution.

Robert Johnson, Death Work, 1998 

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